A Phillipsburg priest has pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting a teen girl over a 4-year period while he was a priest at St. Cecilia Church in Woodbridge during the early 1990s. 63-year-old Thomas P. Ganley pleaded guilty to sexual assault before a superior court judge on Monday, April 8.
The alleged abuse happened between 1990-1994 when the victim was between the ages of 14 and 17. Ganley was arrested in January and initially charged with one count of aggravated sexual assault in the first degree and two counts of sexual assault in the second degree.
This conviction is the first one brought by the New Jersey Clergy Abuse Task Force, which began in September following the 2018 clergy abuse scandal brought on by the Pennsylvania grand jury report. This task force has set up a hotline where victims can report abuse and Ganley’s victim used this hotline. The number for that hotline is (855) 353-6548.
Ganley was arrested two days after the victim called the hotline. In a statement released after the guilty plea, Acting Essex County Prosecutor Robert Laurino encouraged other clergy abuse victims to come forward by contacting the hotline themselves.
In early April, both houses of the New Jersey state legislature passed a bill that would extend the civil statute of limitations in sexual abuse cases. If signed into law by New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, this bill would allow survivors of child sex abuse to file civil lawsuits up until age 55 or within seven years of realizing that they were abused.
This will also provide a two-year window for survivors who were previously blocked from filing lawsuits to do so.
Survivors and advocacy groups are in strong support of this bill, as they consider it a major improvement or the current statute of limitations, which is just two years in civil cases. According to NPR, the governor has shown support for the bill and is expected to sign it into law.
After several years as a prosecutor with the Montgomery County Sex Crimes Unit, attorney Brian Kent now represents survivors of sexual abuse in civil lawsuits. Here is some general information from Brian concerning the legal rights of survivors of sexual abuse at church in New Jersey:
As mentioned above, the civil statute of limitations in New Jersey is expected to change soon. If signed into law, this new bill will allow countless survivors of child sex abuse to find the justice that they’ve been denied for far too long. These survivors will now have the ability to file lawsuits against their abusers and any third parties who failed to protect them from abuse, such as a church or school.
If you’re a survivor of clergy sex abuse and have been unable to take legal action because of New Jersey’s two-year statute of limitations, it’s important to act quickly if and when this bill is signed into law. You will have a two-year window to file a lawsuit once the law is in effect.
Regardless of when your abuse occurred, it’s important to speak with an experienced sex abuse survivors lawyer if you’re considering taking legal action. An attorney who specializes in sex abuse cases can help you understand your legal options and help guide you through the process of filing your claim and securing the financial compensation you deserve.